Online sales of disinfectant, hair care accessories, massage chairs, air purifiers, and disposable gloves have grown multiple times over the past few days as many Chinese consumers are forced to stay home because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Restaurants, cinemas, hotels, and shops have all been forced to close because of the outbreak, which has infected more than 60,000 people. There are also still restrictions in place which mean some factories remain shut, while some companies have asked their employees to work from home.
The outbreak has already triggered a global shortage for protective masks, with the Taiwan government saying on Thursday that it would extend its ban on the export of face masks to the end of April.
In addition to medical supplies, demand for disinfectant has also risen as Chinese consumers rushed to stock up on hand wipes and bleach.
According to a survey published on Friday by Chinese e-commerce firm Suning.com covering transactions conducted between February 10 and February 13, sales of disinfectant produced by Wewin rose 2,561 per cent, while another similar product by Dettol surged 643 per cent from the same period last year.
Sales of air purifying systems also saw a huge rise, jumping a 2,100 per cent from last year, while disposable glove sales went up 674 per cent. Sales of vitamin C, which can help prevent respiratory infections, increased by 401 per cent.
Chinese consumers have also been shunning delivery services, preferring to prepare food themselves, leading to a rise in the sale of fresh vegetables, which rose 621 per cent from the same period last year, according to the Sunning survey.
Hair care accessories, including straighteners and hair dryers, have also risen in popularity with the 731 per cent increase compared to last year attributed to the fact many salons have closed due to the outbreak, while sales of massage chairs rose 436 per cent.
Chinese consumers also bought gifts ahead of Valentine’s Day despite the outbreak, with the sales of flowers rising by 64.29 per cent year-on-year, while chocolate sales increased 238.6 per cent.
With more than 1.6 billion mobile customers, China has one of the most established infrastructures for online shopping, which analysts believe may help offset the impact of the outbreak.
S&P Global Ratings estimated that offline retail sales were likely to decline in the first quarter of 2020, but that online shopping may keep overall retail sales from turning negative.
“We have not changed our pre-virus forecast of annual online sales growth of 17 per cent to 22 per cent in 2020 and 2021, in part because we expect some market share in retail sales will shift online. Online activity will likely prevent an unprecedented decline in overall retail sales for the first quarter,” said S&P’s report, which was published this week.
“In our base-line assumption, the virus will be globally contained by March, with virtually no new transmissions by April. However, the negative impact on retail sales in China will likely stretch for two quarters.”
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